Puss by Robert Handy
IS it not a little more than surprising
that the common domestic cat, an animal
which we are better acquainted with
than the dog, should be permitted to grow
up with so little instruction? I think so.
Almost every dog has some tricks; many
dogs have a great number. Yet how
rarely do you see a cat of which anything
more is expected than that she shall purr
when she is petted, play with your ball
of yarn, or growl when you give her a
MUFFY RINGING THE BELL.
You teach your dog to bark at the word
of command, to roll over, to stand upon
his hind feet, and hold up his paws, to
jump through a small hoop, to sing, and
a thousand other pretty tricks; but why
do you neglect your cat? You can teach
her all these things,—except to bark,—and
quite as easily. Any cat, not more
than a year old, can be taught, in less
than fifteen days, to “roll over;” and
she learns other capers quite as freely.
Bear in mind that to do this you have to
appeal to the creature’s love of food.
That is her nature. She cares nothing
for you; it is the dinner she is after.
So, when you desire to teach puss to
turn over, take her when she is hungry.
Put your hand upon her back, and turn
her over; and then give her a small
bit of meat. Gradually she will require
less and less force. She will understand
what you want, and know what must be
done in order to be served. Never disappoint
her, but let the food immediately
follow obedience. Other tricks may be
taught in the same way. If you wish to
teach her to go through a hoop, you will
be obliged at first to take her up bodily,
and put her through. But this will not
be for a great while. She will soon understand
what you desire.
I once had a cat which would open any
door in the house. She learned herself!
The latch-doors came pretty easy, but
the knobs bothered her a good deal. She
persevered, however, and became an expert
I have a cat now—a Maltese—which
is a marvel of intelligence. There seems
to be no end to her interesting feats. She
is terribly rough at play; if you impose
upon her, you must look out for her claws.
She watches for my coming from the city
quite regularly; and as soon as I sit down
to read, she plants herself in my lap.
She had some kittens a few weeks ago.
One evening, soon after, as I sat in the
rocking-chair, with my newspaper, puss
came into the room with one of her kittens
in her mouth. She placed it carefully
in my lap, and immediately went for
the other one.
A neighbor of mine has a cat which
rings a bell when she is hungry. The
bell is a small one, and hangs about a
yard high, so that Miss Puss has to exert
herself to reach it.
Another cat I heard of recently seems
to have discovered a way to get into the
warm kitchen whenever she is accidentally
shut out in the cold.
At the side wall of the house there is
a small aperture, of about two feet square,
opening into the kitchen, and intended for
the use and convenience of butchers, bakers,
or grocers, who would otherwise
have to go round to the back entrance;
inside of this aperture is suspended a
bell, which Miss Muffy must, no doubt,
have often seen used by butchers, bakers,
and grocers, to call the attention of cook.
She has, therefore, adopted the same plan;
and when tired of her prowlings about the
garden, or hunting for birds in the adjoining
wood, she springs up to the little
door, and, with her paw or head, keeps
ring, ring, ringing at the bell until the
door is opened, and she gets admission.
Muffy is not only a very intelligent little
cat, but I can tell you she is also a
very good-natured one, too. She submits
to being dressed in the doll’s clothes,
and will sometimes lie quite still in the
cradle for hours together, and when told
to stand upon her hind legs and give a
kiss, does so with a gracefulness hitherto
unknown in the annals of cats.
These funny marks of intelligence in
dumb creatures are quite interesting. As
you grow older, you will spend many an
hour in trying to discover where the dividing
line between INSTINCT and REASON
is. It is SOMEWHERE. If you hatch
some chickens by heat, miles away from
any other fowls, the hens will cackle, and
the cocks will crow, all the same, although
no one has taught them. Why is it?
If you could hatch a robin’s egg in the
same way, far removed from other birds,
the bird would, when grown, build its
nest precisely as other robins do, and of
the same material, although it never saw
a pattern in the world. Instinct, or, if
you prefer, NATURE, teaches all this. But
it is not REASON, as you will know as you
Just exactly so it is the instinct of a
dog or a cat to obey you whenever you
require it. Take notice that you can
never teach a dumb creature by observation.
One cat will never learn to turn
over by observing that another one gets
its food thereby.
But I will not try to mix you up in this
discussion now. You will reach it soon
enough if you live. And when you reach
it, you will find a very difficult, as well as
a very interesting question to solve.